The Opiate Epidemic cannot be undone

By Otto Pippenger

If the opiate crisis is to be solved we must first identify what our definition of solved is. Currently both Republicans and Democrats have the same idiotic, fanciful and negligently murderous idea that we can end addiction in America. It is offensive to the public’s sense of propriety that we should have these addicts at all and worse that we should see them.

They intend to bolt the barn door after the horse has left. Either with rehabs or prison, arrests or drugs like Vivitrol that prevent users from getting high with dangerous side effects and a tendency to cause overdose when users relapse.

If drug use is a genetic predisposition, as users are so often told, then we must begin to accept that the desire to modify one’s state of mind is as legitimate as our desires for sex, adventure and elective surgery, insofar as personal risk and legality are reckoned.

The proper goal with regards to the opiate epidemic should be to prevent deaths, while addressing the related issues of poverty and the squalor addicts are consigned to by their secrecy.

Illegality leads to drugs being bought from criminals. They sell contaminated or adulterated drugs which kill, they lead to secrecy and a lack of hygiene which spreads disease along with a stigma which makes it impossible for users to ask for help. Often ending with loved ones taking addicts to the emergency room when they overdose.

Narcotics should therefore be produced by the government and prescribed to addicts. As they were in America prior to Harry Anslinger’s creation of the drug war and as they were in England until the middle of the 20th century and as they have been doing in Scandinavia on an experimental basis.

Needle exchanges must be grown to include safe injection sites.

The disease model is as pernicious as the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) model, which is comparable to conversion therapy in its intent to pathologize natural human behavior. As the famous Rat Park experiment shows, drug use is circumstantial and most commonly develops when people are immiserated. It is insane to think that anyone who had their rights removed and years stolen by the penal system to be punished into relinquishing the chemicals that help them cope with life.

The insanity of prohibition is well and alive, and it is logically inconsistent to apply a different standard to narcotics than there is to alcohol- the cognitive dissonance with which we accept the permanence of alcohol while believing we can crush drugs is a lie sustained by the secrecy with which addicts must live.

The drug policy which radiates from the United States is a motivating force for barbarity around the world. Why do we tolerate the slaughter of drug users in the Philippines any more than we tolerate the execution of homosexuals?

As well meaning as progressive lawmakers are, any group subject to legislation written by those outside of it will be subject to their folly. Drug users must come out of the closet and find their Harvey Milk and Stonewall Riot who can lead the extension of the values that prevail in every other aspect of our law, morals and logic.

Otherwise, the deaths will continue unabated.


Illustration by Quip Johnson.
Illustration by Quip Johnson.

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